Hiring the best of the best is only half the battle to staffing your surgical facility. The other half, the tougher half, is maximizing your team's potential. Here are seven tips to do just that.
Follow the golden rule of management: Never assume. Make sure all staff members, both seasoned professionals and new hires, understand your expectations. Define goals simply and clearly. Throw out mission statements that belong in a poetry book and avoid wording that allows for various interpretations. Re-address your employees' expected goals periodically during staff meetings. This will help serve as a barometer for commitment.
Establish your priorities. Patient and employee safety should be your highest priority. Policies that emphasize safety will overlap and intertwine with regulatory requirements. Keep your framework of your non-negotiable policies simple and easy to follow to increase compliance. Educate all employees to create a high level of understanding of why policies must be followed. Don't expect compliance with "because I said so."
Provide the best available tools. When our facility first opened, some techs and nurses were observed performing procedures without eye protection. An investigation revealed that the eyewear we supplied were bulky, limited side vision and sometimes created "warping" of the vision field. It took a few attempts, but we found a lightweight and reliable eye guard. Staff compliance has been 100 percent since. Now whenever we consider a change in supplies, there's an official trial period during which we obtain feedback from whoever is expected to use the item.
Get creative to correct problems. Not long ago, many of our subcontracted anesthesia providers threw partially filled 20cc propofol vials and 10cc syringes in the regular trash. When we reminded them about our infection control regulations, they began discarding the vials and syringes in the sharps boxes another no-no. Our warnings of accreditation inspectors who look in sharps containers with flashlights went unheeded. Because we contract out for their services, the issue of compliance enforcement was muddied at times. So what did we do? We provided 20cc syringes instead of 10cc syringes for use with the 20cc propofol vials. This eliminated the need for opening and discarding multiple syringes, which in turn provided a few extra seconds at the end of each case for the proper discarding of the syringes and vials. Our anesthesia providers now remove the remaining propofol from vials with the syringe, squirt it into the trash, place the empty vial in the trash and drop the empty syringe in the sharps box.
Challenge your staff. Resist the temptation to lower your expectations to match your staff's performance or perceived ability. Make it your priority to help all staff members succeed. Provide meaningful education, evaluate progress objectively and provide support for review or practicing skills. Create an atmosphere in which an employee won't hesitate to ask for assistance. It's common in a surgical environment to have somewhat limited exposure with certain equipment or procedures especially those used in emergencies. Encourage all staff to keep their skills sharp. A buddy system, structured practice sessions or an education officer may help. Have each employee complete a skills self-evaluation; this will eliminate unpleasant surprises when performance appraisals roll around.
Recognize diversity. There's often more than one way to achieve a desired outcome. The key is to acknowledge these differences and assure that care is given in a safe, compliant and efficient manner. Let your staff evaluate techniques that are useful and those that should be avoided. Help them develop a mentor process that lets staff learn from each other in a non-confrontational exchange of ideas.
Acknowledge effort. Recognize the level of dedication and professionalism that enables your facility to run successfully. Acknowledge exceptional effort and high performance and keep it sincere. Consider the possibility of payroll bonuses, extra paid time off or employee of the month recognition. Whichever reward systems you use, don't forget these two powerful words: Thank you.